We’ve sort of known for a while that Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson likes looking at numbers to evaluate player performance, but never were we given any indication that he looks at more than goals and goals against. That is, until James Mirtle at the Globe got Wilson to admit that he tracked scoring chances when discussing the play of Dion Phaneuf.
While a good eye for on-ice talent can be helpful, so can a blend a statistical analyses. A good defensive play can’t be recognized by the eye, because it doesn’t necessarily exist. While we can notice a shot block or a hit, or a gritty puck battle won by the defender, we need to understand that sometimes those plays don’t give way to not allowing shots. Paul Coffey was a terrific defensive defenseman, because the puck was always in the other end. Vince Lombardi once applied to football the quote “the best defense is a good offense” and that perfectly applies to hockey.
We can check the Fenwick percentages of the Leafs, and notice that Phaneuf is the best player suiting up for Toronto. Toronto earns 60.5% of the events with Phaneuf on the ice, while, off of it, Toronto controls just 41.2%, a difference of 19.4%. Meanwhile, Luke Schenn has had an extremely rough outing, with the team getting just 39% of all shots and missed shots with him on the ice, and 52.7% of the events when he’s off.
I’ve broken down the chart to just the Fenwick percentages, and the differences between them:
|Player||Fenwick % On||Fenwick % Off||Fenwick Diff|
The top line continues to suffer possession-wise, due to their propensity to create offense of the rush. They don’t play the type of game that’s accostomed to this sort of analysis. Mike Komisarek and Cody Franson are other defensemen who are being victimized, while I’m sure 67 Sound won’t be surprised to see that the Leafs do the worst when he’s on the ice, and Mike Brown is clearly a better fourth line winger, and perhaps some of this data matches what the Leafs have.
Again, without actual scoring chance charts, Fenwick data is probably the closest we have towards what the Leafs are working with. It explains why Luke Schenn has been benched towards the end of certain games. Given how far removed Gunnarsson is from Phaneuf, I’m willing to bet that, separated, he’s seeing similar struggles.
Overall, the Leafs have a team Fenwick of 48.7%, which is pretty close to even given the team have only played 11 games. The 102.9 PDO continues to hang over the Leafs’ heads like an anvil waiting to fall. With no real set return-date for James Reimer, it’s all on Jonas Gustavsson to out-play the man at the other end of the ice for another week or so.